February 10, 2010 / 1:04 PM / 10 years ago

UK government forced to disclose U.S. torture allegations

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government failed on Wednesday in a legal challenge to keep secret U.S. intelligence material relating to allegations of “cruel and inhuman” treatment involving the CIA.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed after a news conference in London, August 17, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

London’s Court of Appeal rejected a request by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to prevent senior judges from disclosing seven paragraphs of information relating to the case of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

Miliband had argued that full disclosure could lead to reduced intelligence-sharing with the United States and prejudice Britain’s national security.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national and British resident, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002.

He says he was then flown to Morocco on a CIA plane and held for 18 months, during which he says he was repeatedly tortured, including having his penis cut with a knife. Morocco has denied holding him.

He was transferred to Afghanistan in 2004 and later moved to Guantanamo Bay, U.S. authorities have said. He was never charged and returned to Britain in February 2009.

London’s High Court ruled in 2008 that the British government must disclose all evidence held against Mohamed but excluded seven sensitive paragraphs supplied by U.S. intelligence services.


Judges later said the United States had threatened to end intelligence cooperation if the evidence of alleged torture was released.

But last October, two High Court judges ruled there was “an overwhelming public interest” in releasing the details, a decision upheld by the Appeal Court on Wednesday, Britain’s Press Association reported. The seven redacted paragraphs refer to interviews conducted by U.S. officials in which it was reported that Mohamed was shackled and subjected to sleep deprivation, threats and inducements.

“Although it is not necessary for us to categorize the treatment reported, it could be readily contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities,” the now public judgment said.

Miliband said the Appeal Court would have upheld the “control principle” — that no country should disclose intelligence from another without its agreement — had the substance of the paragraphs not already been put into the public domain by a U.S. court judgment in a separate case in December.

“Without that disclosure, it is clear that the Court of Appeal would have overturned the Divisional Court’s decision to publish the material,” Miliband said in a statement.

The Foreign Office said Miliband had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to notify her of the court’s impending decision and they had “reaffirmed the importance of the U.S./UK intelligence relationship.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britain stood “firmly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and obviously we don’t condone, collude, encourage or solicit it.”

Human rights campaigners said the government had gone to great lengths to conceal torture and the Foreign Office had been primarily concerned with saving face.

“These embarrassing paragraphs reveal nothing of use to terrorists but they do show something of the UK government’s complicity with the most shameful part of the War on Terror,” said Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty, the British human rights campaign group.

Reporting by Michael Holden and Keith Weir; editing by Tim Pearce

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